The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Tainted Mind by Tamsen Schultz

Title:  A Tainted Mind
Author:  Tamsen Schultz
Publisher:  Booktrope
Release Date:  April 17, 2013
Pages:  326
A Tainted Mind by Tamsen Schultz
About the Book:  OBSESSED with her job as a medical examiner and lead consultant with the FBI, Dr. Vivienne ‘Vivi’ DeMarco is a woman running from her own demons. And finding the remains of a body on the side of a road in rural upstate New York wasn’t part of her plan. FRUSTRATED that the ghosts from his past won’t leave him alone, Ian MacAllister makes for a reluctant Deputy Chief of Police of Windsor, New York. But as more victims are discovered, all women that bear a shocking resemblance to Dr. DeMarco, he knows he’ll need to call on all the skills he learned as an Army Ranger if he wants to keep her safe. DENIED over and over again of the one thing he desires most, a killer may have finally reached his breaking point. The only question that remains is, will he take Vivi and Ian with him?

Wanda's Review:  While traveling through upstate New York, Dr. Vivienne DeMarco stumbles upon the remains of a woman in a rural area. Deputy Police Chief Ian McAlister asks Viv for her help to investigate the crime. At first Viv refuses, but reluctantly stays on when it appears they have a serial killer in the area, as more victims are discovered. And is it just coincidental that these women all resemble Viv?

Viv started college when she was sixteen, and she became a Professor, a Cop, an ME, FBI Consultant, and a Psychologist by the age of twenty eight. Viv felt socially awkward. She had always felt her value was measured by how much work she did, how many murderers she apprehended, and how many families she reunited. 

Ian was more than a small town cop. He exuded a commanding confidence. Ian needed help solving this crime spree and Viv was more than qualified. He saw an amazing woman filled with intrigue when he looked at Viv, and he was immediately attracted to her. And the story unfolds with interesting twists along the way. 

The author did a wonderful job getting into the minds of the expertly drawn characters - multi dimensional and authentic personalities. This book had an interesting premise, but unfortunately I wasn't able to stay engaged in the storyline. There was an entourage of characters and a complicated plot moving in too many directions. I found myself confused at times and it diminished my enjoyment.

Ending on a positive note - this book had to take a lot of deep thought to have such a cleverly written plot. My rating is 3.5 stars. 
I was given a copy of this book from LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program in exchange for an honest review.

My reviews are also posted on

About the Author:  Tamsen Schultz is the author of The Puppeteer and “American Kin” (a short story published in Line Zero Magazine) and is a three-time finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association annual competition. She worked in the field of international conflict resolution and co-founded a non-profit prior to attending law school. Since graduating, she has worked as a corporate attorney and, like most real lawyers, she spends a disproportionate amount of time thinking about what it might be like to do something else. She lives in Northern California in a house full of males including her husband, two sons, a cat, a dog, and a gender-neutral, but well-stocked, wine rack. A Tainted Mind is her second novel and her third, These Sorrows We See, is tentatively scheduled for release in late 2013.

The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain

Title:  The Paris Wife: A Novel 
Author:  Paula McLain
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Released Date:  2012
Pages:  352
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
About the Author:  


Paula McLain was born in Fresno, California in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of various foster homes for the next fourteen years. When she aged out of the system, she supported herself by working as a nurses aid in a convalescent hospital, a pizza delivery girl, an auto-plant worker, a cocktail waitress--before discovering she could (and very much wanted to) write. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996. Since then, she has received fellowships from the corporation of Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her first book of poetry, Less of Her, was published in 1999 from New Issues Press and won a publication grant from the Greenwall Fund of the Academy of American Poets. She's also the author of a second collection of poetry, Stumble, Gorgeous, a memoir, Like Family: Growing Up In Other People's Houses, and the novel, A Ticket to Ride. Her most recent book is The Paris Wife, a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway's first marriage and upstart years in 1920's Paris, as told from the point of view of his wife, Hadley. She teaches in the MFA Program in Poetry at New England College, and lives with her family in Cleveland.

WC's Review:  Hadley Richardson is Ernest Hemingway's first of four wives and would have been his only wife had the famous author had any sense. But ambitious Hemingway agreeably gets caught up in the thrilling but transparent lifestyle of romantic intellectual Paris in the twenties where, after the horrors of the Great War, anything goes with anybody. Unfortunately, so does sensible Hadley, who grudgingly becomes an enabler.
The booze and the glamour overcome the author, and he succumbs to the false allure of cads and vamps whose only worth serves as characters in his first and best novel, The Sun Also Rises.
Hadley is a devoted wife and mother, but allows herself to participate in relationships that destroy her marriage. Perhaps she is better off without him.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train
Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks
Date Released:  April 2, 2013
Pages:  278

About the Author:  Christina Baker Kline was born in Cambridge, England, and raised there as well as in the American South and Maine. She is the author of five novels: Orphan Train, Bird in Hand, The Way Life Should Be, Desire Lines, and Sweet Water. She is co-editor, with Anne Burt, of About Face: Women Write about What They See When They Look in the Mirror and co-author, with Christina L. Baker, of The Conversation Begins: Mothers and Daughters Talk about Living Feminism. She has edited three other anthologies: Child of Mine, Room to Grow, and Always Too Soon. Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University from 2007 to 2011, Kline has also taught literature and creative writing at Yale, NYU, UVA, and Drew University. A graduate of Yale, Cambridge University, and the University of Virginia, where she was a Hoyns Fellow in Fiction Writing, Kline is a recipient of a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowship and several research fellowships, and has been a Writer-in-Residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Kline lives with husband and three sons in Montclair, New Jersey. She is at work on another novel and an anthology.

Wanda's Review:   A solid piece of historical fiction, this story captured me from beginning to end. The ending was just perfect, leaving me with a good feeling. The past and the present are beautifully woven together through Vivian and Molly, while spinning a tale of twisting emotions. 

Seventeen year old Molly, a foster child who is about to be too old for foster care, is given fifty hours of community service for trying to steal a book. In the past nine years, Molly has been in over a dozen foster homes, some for as little as a week. She's become very defiant. The one thing Molly hates most about the foster care system is the dependence on people you barely know, your vulnerability to their whims. She has learned not to live a life of expectations. She's not keen on devoting fifty hours of her life to Vivian in a drafty attic, going through endless boxes of stuff. 

Ninety one year old Vivian Daly, living in a fourteen room victorian mansion, wants to have her attic cleaned out. There are many boxes to be opened and Vivian's past is soon revealed. Vivian's family left Ireland for America in hopes of a brighter future, thinking they were on their way to a land of plenty. But, they failed miserably, ill suited for the rigors of emigration. The family meets with tragedy and Vivian is soon on her way to the mid- west on the orphan train - headed for the unknown. 

I was not at all familiar with this strange and little known episode in our nation's history. The orphan trains existed from 1854-1929 and each child has a sad tale; they wouldn't be on the train otherwise. They are told that they are lucky to be on this orphan train. They are leaving an evil place, full of ignorance and poverty, for the nobility of country life. They had simple rules to adhere to, and if they didn't obey these rules they would be sent back to where they came from and discharged on the streets, left to fend for themselves. Adoptive parents gathered at the train stations looking for a child to adopt. A child is selected for free on a ninety-day trial, at which point, if you so choose, you may send the child back. But, too many times the children were abused. Babies and healthy older boys were typically chosen first; older girls were chosen last. If a child wasn't chosen, they would get back on the train and try again in the next town. 

Christina Baker Kline brings richness and life to this compelling story - completely absorbing and beautifully written. I highly recommend and my rating is 5 stars. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

The Mountain Between Us

Publisher:  Broadway Books
Date Released:  June 28, 2011                
Pages:  336

About the Author:  Charles Martin is the author of seven novels. He and his family live in Jacksonville, Florida.

Wanda's Review:  Wow! What a wonderful read! This was my first time reading a Charles Martin novel and this book consumed me early on. The Mountain Between Us is on my list of favorite books. 

Dr. Ben Payne, an orthopedic surgeon, leaving a medical convention, is waiting at Salt Lake City Airport for a flight east. The flight is on hold because of a faulty de-icer and an anticipated snow storm. Ben hires a chartered plane to take him to Denver to catch a connecting flight. Grover, the pilot, says he can take one more passenger and Ben offers the seat to Ashely Knox, a journalist, flying East for her wedding. And then, a tragedy occurs. Grover has a heart attack and the chartered plane crashes into a wintry wilderness and the fight for survival begins as Ben and Ashley struggle to overcome a myriad of obstacles. 

You won't soon forget these characters, realistic, but complex. I loved the splashes of humor, in the dialogue, spread throughout. The author used beautiful descriptive writing with vivid imagery of scenes that really added to this emotional journey with a poignant ending that took me by surprise. The storyline has a rich blend of love, survival, faith, and endurance. It will touch your heart as it delivers in every way. I highly recommend with a 5 star rating.     

Ameritopia - The Unmaking of America by Mark Levin

            Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America About the Author:  Mark R. Levin is a nationally syndicated talk radio host and president of Landmark Legal Foundation. He has also worked as an attorney in the private sector and as a top adviser and administrator to several members of President Reagan's cabinet. He is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling book Liberty and Tyranny, as well as New York Times bestselling books Rescuing Sprite and Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America, Mark holds a B.A. from Temple University and a J.D. from Temple University School of Law.

Publisher:  Threshold Editions
Release Date:  2012
Pages:  288

WC's Review:  The fundamental transformation of America is not a phenomenon devised by this current administration. Utopian society is a concept first promulgated by Plato in his Republic in 380 BCE, further expounded in Thomas More's Utopia and Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, and culminated with Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto in 1848.

The motivation of all tomes was the extension of the perfect society through radical egalitarianism in order to create the all-powerful state, with the authority confined to the controlling elites, i.e., Barack Obama and his gang of appointed thugs. In order to complete this nefarious enterprise, the masses have to be subjugated to the state, largely through the mind-numbing conditioning in our compulsory school system. The inherent virtue of controlled society, as Churchill said, is the equal sharing of misery.

The "Great One," Dr Levin, meticulously lays out the principles of these celebrated utopian works and how America is evolving into the Obamaian state through the forced malleability of our low-informed society.

Fortunately, the author counters with John Locke and The Nature of Man, followed by the wisdom of Charles Montesquieu and Alexis de Tocqueville. And fortunately for America, Jefferson, Franklin, John Quincy Adams, and later, Andrew Jackson, endorsed individual human rights and liberty while scorning the onus of collective governme
This book belongs on the shelves of all clear thinking Americans.

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons

Publisher:  Plume
Release Date:  August 27, 2013
Pages:  352
The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons

Wanda's Review:  This book was a Goodreads "First Reads Winner".

Juliet Montague is a young Jewish widow, whose husband, George, vanished seven years ago. She is the mother of two young children, a son Leonard, and a daughter, Frieda. In Jewish law only men can divorce women. Until George returns or dies or divorces Juliet, her life is in limbo. So, what happens if she wants to marry again? Unless George sends a bill of divorce, she is still married in the eyes of God. Juliet feels as if she is quietly disappearing piece by piece. Then her life changes. An artist asks to paint her portrait. Charles Fussell, a young wealthy painter, told her she had a good face. Not beautiful, but interesting. And the story unfolds -----

Juliet eventually becomes the owner of Wednesday's Art Gallery. She is the curator, owner, and navigator - she runs the gallery and chooses all the artists. Over the years, Juliet has her portrait painted many times. Each one of the portraits, all painted by different artists, catches a little piece of her - portraits of assorted Juliets - a kaleidoscope of portraits. 

Many well developed characters are introduced throughout, and one with whom Juliet has an affair over a period of many years. Juliet is a strong, charming character that you really get to know well. She has a penchant for choosing a good painting. She feels art has a use in helping us to see the world more clearly, it sharpens the perception. 

The author definitely has a writing style of her own - her descriptive writing is absolutely some of the best I've ever read. She literally paints a picture with her words.

A few negatives - The tempo of the storyline simmered along at a very slow pace. There were times I trudged through, skimming over some passages. And, not much excitement - it was just luke-warm. The ending was tied up very neatly, but not really compelling - nothing that swept me away or evoked many emotions.

But, for those of you who want a good relaxed read, I would recommend this book. My rating is 3.5 stars.

I received an advanced uncorrected proof copy of this book from Goodreads as a first reads winner.

Waking Giant - America in the Age of Jackson by David S Reynolds

Publisher:  Harper Perennial
Release Date:  2009
Pages:  480

Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson

WC's Review:  Author David S Reynolds obviously is aware that few people, if any, read a textbook and does his best to make sure this comprehensive history of American history from 1815 to 1848 does not read like one. He gives salacious details in particular about the feminist movements and show biz phenomena, and the folks who settled communes and the West in their efforts to enhance their religious fervor. Not much new is revealed about the hero of New Orleans, but insights into James Polk, William H Harrison, John Tyler, and Zach Taylor are detailed. Emerson and Thoreau, both underrated sages of New England in their estimations, along with the poet Walt Whitman who worshipped himself as well, are highlighted in their blind adoration of John Brown, who was captured by a true American in Robert E Lee.
One has to wonder if a character of Jackson's stature could survive with today's odious lack of quality politicians. Balance the budget? Do away with the Federal Reserve? Hold politicians feet to the constitutional dictate of high crimes and misdemeanors?
"In 1814, we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip."


Fired Up (Trouble in Texas #2) by Mary Conneally

Publisher:  Bethany House Publishers
Release Date:  September 15, 2013
Pages:  337

Fired Up by Mary Connealy

Wanda's Review:  1868 - Texas - Glynna Greer had detestable memories of her late husband, Flint, who had been killed in a gun battle by Dare Riker and his friends. They risked their lives to save Glynna from her husband. Dare Riker, is a doctor who wants to heal, not kill, but Flint had given him no choice and he has saved Glynna from her husband's brutality. Glynna is a survivor and determined she can make it on her own and provide for her two children. She opens a diner in this small town, Broken Wheel, even though she is not a good cook. 

Dare worked with a doctor during the Civil War, but does not have any formal training as a doctor, and very little schooling. He lacked confidence and felt that presenting himself as a doctor was wrong. A bit of a romance blossoms between Glynna and Dare, but that part of the story falters for me. The romance moved so slowly and was completely predictable. The story unfolds with an avalanche, a fire, and a stabbing, and Dare survives it all - again predictable. 

This book was just lukewarm, failing to captivate my interest. The storyline was rather implausible, being far-fetched, failing to convince me. On a positive note, the book was well written. I enjoyed the descriptive writing of the bucolic countryside and there was some fun dialogue with humor interjected throughout. It was a relaxed, fast, and easy read, but not one I'd enthusiastically recommend. My rating is 3 stars. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers for an honest review. All opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Cheesemaker's House By Jane Cable

Publisher:  Matador
Release Date:  August 12, 2013
Pages:  229

Wanda's Review:  
The Cheesemaker's House by Jane Cable

Alice Hart has just gone through a divorce because of an affair her husband had with his secretary. The escape route was already in place forAlice because three years earlier she and her ex had bought their retirement home, New Cottage. The house had been built many years ago by a businesswoman, the village cheesemaker. New Cottage needed renovating and Alice hires Richard Wainwright, a local builder. Richard had been recommended by Owen Maltby, a man Alice recently met at a Cafe. Both Richard and Owen are attracted to Alice, but it soon becomes obvious that Alice is falling for Owen. The problems soon unfold when Alice is told by a friend that Owen is a wierdo and rather creepy. Owen is known as the local village charmer. People went to Owen for minor ailments and sometimes more serious problems. Many of the village people swear Owen is better than a doctor with his herb mixtures and concoctions he uses for treatments.

Strange things begin to happen. Richard is working in the barn and discovers a tiny skull. Alice hears strange crying during the night and is seeing Owen in places where it just isn't logical that he could be. Alice was finding it hard to trust Owen. She was not a great believer in the paranormal, but strange things were occurring and there just didn't seem to be a normal explanation.

The story has a mixture of mystery, drama, romance, and paranormal happenings. The premise of the story grabbed my attention early on, but it was just too drawn out and my enjoyment of the book soon diminished. On a positive note - the author had a creative way of weaving this multi-layered story together and it did have a satisfying conclusion. It was a deep and thought provoking storyline with many twists and turns throughout. But, unfortunately, I found this book to be just lukewarm, falling a bit flat for me. My rating - 3 stars.

I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review of this book. The opinions shared are solely my responsibility.

Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund

Publisher:  Bethany House Publisher
Release Date:  September 15, 2013
Pages:  384

Wanda's Review:  Rebellious Heart was inspired by the lives of John and Abigail Adams, the second President of the United States and the First Lady. This book was the author's attempt to recreate their courtship. Historical facts and fiction were cleverly woven together to create this great novel. The story has drama, mystery, and a smidgen of romance. 

Braintree, Massachusetts - 1763 - The body of a young maiden was found along the rocky coast of the bay. An old fisherman, Hermit Crab Joe, defended by Benjamin Ross is found guilty. Mr. Ross had finished his education at Harvard, along with his lawyer training and had just recently returned to Braintree with a growing practice. Ben decides it is time to find a wife. 

Susanna Smith wanted to find a man that would love her for her inner qualities rather than her outward assets. She wanted an education and begged her parents to send her to an academy in Massachusetts that admitted girls. Most men didn't want a wife who was an independent thinker or more knowledgeable than them. Susanna was intelligent, witty, and interesting and Ben found her to be the most stimulating woman he'd ever met, but her mother, Mrs. Smith would never accept him as her son-in-law. Susanna's heart rebelled against the status and wealth seeking mentality of marrying up, but it was ineviteable. She really had no choice in the matter. Susanna also had an inner quality about her. She was willing to sacrifice her own safety for someone less fortunate than herself. She enters a very risky venture by aiding an indentured servant. 

Another murder occurs and there was a murderer roaming the countryside and it wasn't a matter of if he would strike again, but when. And the story unfolds ----

The author shaped this story beautifully with vivid imagery of scenes and interesting dialogue. You'll really disappear into the Colonial times of the 1700's in this absorbing novel. My rating is 4.5 stars. 
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions shared are my own. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Secret Keeper by Beverly Lewis

Publisher:  Bethany House Publishers
Release Date:  September 3, 2013
Pages:  352

Wanda's Review:  Jenny Burns was twenty five years old and still trying to fit in somewhere. She lived in an impressive Connecticut estate since she was a child. Jennie was accused of being straight out of the nineteenth century. The ideal world to Jenny was to live in a simple era, where people actually listened to each other - a gloriously peaceful world that was firmly grounded into the past. Jenny was willing to give up her worldly ways to follow her dreams and follow in the Amish tradition. Connecticut really didn't have any hold on Jenny and the Amish life would offer her more time to savor each moment, and grow as a child of God. 

Jenny was off to peaceful Lancaster County, as an Amish Seeker, where she rented a bedroom from an Amish couple, Samuel and Rebecca Lapp. She abandoned her materialistic English world for this heaven on earth in Hickory Hollow. She was ready to give up her own wants and desires and yield to the way of the Plain people and to God. She was ready to embrace these unique people, with their noble way of life, the Amish of Lancaster County. And the story unfolds ---

While in Hickory Hollow, Jenny meets some young folk who are so curious about the modern world, perhaps trying to get out of their world. And here she was, trying to get into their simple life. Were they taking their plain heritage for granted? She was told that a person can live a simple lifestyle just about anywhere, but what was most important was a person's heart. As Jenny becomes involved with the daily domestic chores of being an Amishwoman she feels like a failure. Jenny develops a precious friendship with Andrew Lapp which grows into a tender romance and eventually discovers that a house becomes a home because of the people who live there. 

Jenny faces many challenges throughout her stay at Hickory Hollow. Will she be strong enough to succeed in this simple lifestyle? Or, will she have to accept who she really is, not what she wishes she might have been? Jenny pursues a life built on a dream, but is it enough?

Taken from the book - A person grows best spiritually when exploring God's word, letting it get rooted and planted in the soil of the heart. There is no substitute for that for anyone, Plain or not. 

It's been a few years since I've read a Beverly Lewis book and I'd forgotten the reading pleasure the books always give me. The Secret Keeper has a strong cast of characters that are beautifully portrayed and you'll absolutely love. The author has a unique style of good old fashioned story telling with a lovely setting that makes a delightful read. My rating is 4 stars. 
I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House through NetGalley for an honest review of this book. The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.

The Night Is Forever (Krewe of Hunters #11) by Heather Graham

Publisher:  Harlequin MIRA
Release Date:  September 24, 2013
Pages:  368

Wanda's Review:  The story begins when Olivia Gordon discovers Marcus Danby, dead in a ravine. His death was made to look like an accident, but Olivia is certain Marcus was murdered. Marcus comes back as a ghost and talks to Olivia and asks her to help him. He tells her he was murdered. 

Marcus Danby founded the horse Farm, a therapy center, that was located near Nashville. The Horse Farm had been Marcus's passion and his life. His door was opened to any abandoned creature. Marcus brought in clients - patients to work with horses - or dogs sometimes. The Horse Farm was extremely well respected. And now, Olivia and the rest of the employees, at the Horse Farm, had to move forward with the work Marcus had deemed so important. 

Olivia worked at the Horse Farm as a therapist. She did impressive work with the horses, but what she managed with people was equally beautiful. She was loved and respected by everyone. Olivia had the ability to see ghosts and talk to them. She was told she was like a ghost magnet and some called it a gift, but some called it a curse. She shared this ability with her cousin, Malachi, who was in charge of the Krewe, an FBI Unit of Paranormals. 

Special Agent Dustin Blake, my favorite character, was quite charming. Dustin comes to Nashville, at the request of Malachi, to investigate the death of Marcus. He also shares the gift of seeing ghosts. There is a strong chemistry between Olivia and Dustin and a romance slowly develops and an investigation that leads in many directions. And the plot thickens!

This book includes mystery, paranormal, and romance. The author had such a creative way of weaving together this multi layered story. I found myself engaged in the storyline early on. I did not anticipate the ending and I must say, I was a bit disappointed, not finding it to be plausible. Also, there were many secondary characters and I found myself confused at times.

The author really elaborates on the paranormal encounters, going into much depth - very interesting! I also liked the bit of Civil War history interjected through the ghost encounters. Yes, I would recommend this book, especially to those of you who are into paranormal - you'll love it. My rating is 4 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for providing me with a complementary copy of this book to review. All opinions shared are my own. 

The Train Baby's Mother by Sharon Bernash Smith

Publisher: OakTara
Release Date  :  November 2012
Pages:  232

Wanda's Review:  On December 24, 1943 two children were playing in the snow on a family farm, 30 miles north of Berlin and south of Ravensbruck, a Nazi prison camp for women. They heard a strange noise and trudge through the snow to investigate. They discovered a brown bundle lying next to the train tracks - a baby. The baby was immediately hidden with utmost discretion and it's final destination was a village in the Bavarian mountains with a family who loved it unconditionally.

In the winter of 1943 thousands of German citizens were transported to concentration camps on cattle cars of trains and it was happening under the cruel, demonic mind of Hitler. The extermination of every Jewish man, woman and child was carried out to the extreme that was never seen by the history of man. Lives of Jewish families would never be the same because of the diabolical mind and heinous acts of this man.

Ravensbruck was surrounded by barbed wire and was located 50 miles north of Berlin. Buildings were filled beyond capacity with women of all ages who were being starved with protruding bones and shaved heads. If the women weren't starved to death, they were gassed or shot and thrown into pits slushed with gasoline and set on fire.

This is the story of Hadassah Jensen, a Jewish woman, who fought to survive Ravensbruck and the Holocaust - a story of a woman whose innocence was shattered by these unspeakable acts of horror.

This is one of the most achingly sad books I've ever read on the Holocaust - just heart wrenching. The ending is filled with extraordinary poignancy and will have a strong impact on you. I highly recommend - a remarkable read!  My rating is 5 stars.

When Mountains Move (Into the Free #2) by Julie Cantrell

Publisher:  David C Cook
Date of Release:  September 1, 2013
Pages:  416

Wanda's Review:  Wow! This is definitely a 2013 favorite!

1942 - Iti Taloa, Mississippi - Millie is awaiting her marriage to Kenneth (Bump) Anderson, but she isn't sure she is deserving of his love. The Anderson's are such a kind, genuine family and Millie is struggling with her past, dealing with a storm of emotions. Millie has been living in a barn for the last six weeks, doing everything in her power to stay away from Bill Miller. She had been taken in by the Miller family, but the unthinkable happened and Millie left the posh Miller home without even saying goodbye. She knows she should tell Bump her secret, that happened against her will, but she is afraid things would get out of hand.

Bump and Millie are married at a simple gathering of those they loved, and now it is her duty to love and obey. Millie enters this new marriage struggling to develop a fully open and trusting relationship with Bump. Her intentions are to protect Bump from the truth that would surely hurt him more.

Bump has just finished vet school and is asked to launch a ranch in the Rockies, arranged by Mr. Tucker. He and Mollie start their cross country move from Mississippi to Colorado. Bump and Millie have three years to turn a profit and develop a top breeding facility - stock horses and beef cattle. Millie and Bump are faced with many challenges that have the potential of tearing them apart. And the story unfolds ---

The beautiful Katharine Fitch Garner (Kat) is an interesting character who adds drama to the storyline. Kat and Millie become friends. Millie admires Kat and wants to be like her in so many ways, but soon Millie realizes Kat's friendship is superficial. Millie is betrayed by Kat and hurt by her deceitful actions.

River Greene enters the story as a rougher cut of the man Millie remembers. River is still able to tempt Millie. Does Millie have the power to pull away? Is she willing to settle for less than what she really wants?

Oka, Millie's grandmother, was one of my favorites. Oka is filled with strength and wisdom and has a very genuine spirit. She teaches Millie much about forgiveness and grace.

This is storytelling at its best - a delightful read that will touch your heart. The ending has a strong crescendo of suspense and a satisfying conclusion. This is truly a compelling and emotional novel by a gifted writer. My rating is 5 stars. 

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions shared are my own.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke

Publisher:  Tyndale House Publisher
Date Released:  August 17, 2012
Pages:  432

Wanda's Review - 

Life was not tolerable in County Meath for Maureen O'Reilly and her thirteen year old sister, Katie Rose. The story starts out in 1910 as Maureen and Katie Rose flee Ireland searching for a new beginning in America. A new life has been promised to their father nearly twenty eight years ago stemming from a Civil War debt. A promise was made by Colonel Wakefield to embrace Morgan O'Reilly and his family as his own and for the O'Reilly family to be a part of the Wakefields of Morningside.

Maureen and Katie Rose struggle to survive as they arrive in Ellis Island. The character of Maureen is beautifully portrayed with her sweet lilt of an Irish brogue, but she was also a very stubborn, strong willed woman. Katie Rose is not so likable, being spoiled and rebellious. 

Maureen is directed to Darcy's department store by Jaime Flynn where she finds employment through false references and deception. Jaime Flynn, a very dark character, positions himself at Ellis Island to direct homeless girls and women to Darcy's where he and others kidnap women from the store to be used for the ring of trafficking. And the story moves along with many twists and turns. 

Band of Sisters is a story about the world of human trafficking - women who are forced into prostitution. Girls, women - either kidnapped or lured in with promises of good jobs, bribes, marriage, or whatever it takes. They are then sold to the highest bidder to be used in brothels, sold as sexual escorts in New York, or shipped to buyers elsewhere. 

This heart-wrenching story will strike a deep chord within those who read it. Deep and thought provoking - this book will touch your heart - a horrible realization of what occurred at that time and still occurs today.

This is my first time reading a book by this author and I'll be looking for more in the future. This is one of the best books I've ever read. Superlative! - a book you'll not want to miss.  My rating is 5 stars.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten

Publisher:  Harlequin MIRA
To Be Released:  October 29, 2013
Pages:  368
Taken from the Preface - We have no milk, no bread, no potatoes - just rotten peels. The boys now have to go far into the fields to pull frozen tulip bulbs from the ground. We grind the pulp and make thin soup and watery porridges from them. They are bitter, practically inedible, but we choke them down because otherwise we will starve. - Anonymous Dutch housewife, circa 1944.

It was one of the great ironies of the Dutch occupation - to forage and choke down their national flower to stave off starvation.

Houston, Texas - 1980 - Nora de Jong, a pediatric surgeon, was filled with contentment. She and her mother, Anneke, shared the love and care of her six month old daughter, Rose. Life seemed to be perfect until the day she returned from work to find her mother murdered and her baby missing. The dead body of an unknown man was on the floor, clutching a German Luger in his hand. And it seemed the killer had an accomplice who took Rose. Why was Rose taken and there was no ransom asked?

Nora finds a metal box filled with secret documents that bring up many questions about her life and the lives of her parents. After a futile investigation by the local police, Nora decides to take matters into her own hands. It was better than staying in Houston, terrified and frantic. She goes to Amsterdam to try and put the missing pieces together about the family's seemingly dark and unsettled history - a history that would take her back to the days of WWII and a city under Nazi occupation.

Nora's parents, Anneke and Hans de Jong were married in Holland shortly after the war, and immigrated to the States from the Netherlands. Sixty year old Anneke, was a housewife, and a warm, loving person. She spent all of her time taking care of baby Rose. Hans, Nora's father, had died a few years earlier, and had been a literature professor at a local university. Her parents never talked about their life in Holland. Was Anneke really a Dutch Nazi? Had she killed a Jewish man, Abram Rosen, and then fled the country and changed her name?

A strong, but rather sinister character is Amarisa, a very wealthy Jewish woman. She had been in diamond trade for almost forty years and had forged relationships with people in high places. Amsterdam was the largest diamond center in the world. During the Dutch occupation, Amarisa's family was arrested and thrown on a train, and shipped to Mauthausen. The entire family was gassed, but Amarisa and her brother made it out. But Amarisa had been raped and her face was slit from her lip to ear. Amarisa really adds to the storyline, filling it with a crescendo of suspense.

Who was Abram Rosen and was his family still alive? Was Nora's mother really an NSB-er - a reviled organization of the Dutch Nazis? What was the motive behind Anneke's murder and the kidnapping of Rose? A lot of questions with an intriguing storyline.

This is definitely a favorite for 2013! The book is a rich blend of history, suspense and romance and will absolutely devour you from the beginning to the satisfying conclusion. The author manages to weave together a tale of family secrets with meticulous detail and includes an entourage of fascinating characters. Most definitely a 5 star novel by an incredible author. 

I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions shared in this review are my own.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Gracianna by Trini Amador

This story is fiction, but based on true events of the author's great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga.

Gracianna Arrayet was born in the Pyrennes, mountains that border France and Spain. Her mother was Ann, who died in childbirth when Gracianna was eight years old - her grandmother, Grand-mere - Anastasia. Her birth certificate read "Father Unknown". Gracianna has a little sister, Constance, and they share a bond of love born from the loss of their mother. She loved her native Basque, the language unrelated to any other European languages. Gracianna was ambitious and curious, being able to quote verses from poems and entire passages of history. Gracianna dreamed of moving to America. She longed to see California and the beautiful Santa Barbara. She developed a plan to go to Paris where she would work for a year to earn enough money for her travel to America. Her family tried to dissuade her from leaving because of the war in France, but Gracianna, even with fear welling up, was determined, and in the early 1940's, finally leaves for Paris with no plans to return. With Nazi headquarters in the backyard, she finds a job working in a bar cafe and sharpens her instincts for survival in occupied Paris. In time she is recruited into the French Resistance.

Juan Laxague was a rather shy local sheepherder and has known Gracianna and her family for years. He was taught the values of hardwork and belief in God early on. He thought a lot about the future with Gracianna and one night he decides to strike out on his own. And the story unfolds as Juan follows Gracianna to Paris where he begins his search for her, whom he believes will become his partner in life. Constance also follows Gracianna and arrives in Paris with great fanfare. Caught up in a whirlwind, the impetuous and immature Constance quickly marries a wealthy man for the easy life.

Parisians were disappearing, Jews were being rounded up, suspected sympathizers rooted out by the Gestapo. A series of events unfold and Constance is beaten and humiliated and sent to Birkenau, one of the satellite concentration camps of Auschwitz.

This is an emotional story about the Holocaust, World War II, Hitler, the Auschwitz - Birkenau death camp, and the French Freedom Resistance. Gracianna's sister miraculously did live through Birkenau, where it is estimated that between 700,000 and 1 million people were gassed, hanged, or shot. Rumors were that at night you could see lights blaze and flicker and hear horrific screams. The Nazis were performing evil, supposedly scientific tests on prisoners - men, women, and children - where death was probably preferable.

The topic of the Holocaust brings with it deep sadness and the horrible realization of what occurred at that time. This is a compelling tale of love, family, suspense and survival. A gripping novel that I highly recommend.  

I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley for an honest review of this book. The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility.